DiabetesSisters of Jacksonville lives where the sun shines, the beach breeze blows, and carbs still need to be counted and addressed appropriately. After attending the inaugural Weekend for Women conference in Raleigh NC in 2010, and two more conferences after that, PODS Leader Diane Bajalia knew she wanted to share her experience with other women with diabetes. She launched the Jacksonville PODS Meetup in January 2013.
Despite the way Jacksonville is very spread out, with several members of the group living 45 - 60 minutes from each other, a core group of 10-12 members has been successful in staying together and meeting regularly for nearly 5 years. Diane feels great about the group's success and knows it is due to members actively taking part in decisions and offering ideas such as different places to meet and ways to enhance each month's educational theme. Members have volunteered and hosted the PODS Meetup at their respective homes, so they did not have to drive that month, and also served as "experience experts" for those Meetups because of their particular background, experience, and knowledge on those topics (exercise and heart disease).
The Jacksonville PODS makes the monthly Meetup themes even more active and fun. Instead of just talking about exercise, they plan and do an exercise session together as a Meetup. They discuss nutritional choices as they bring food and recipes to sharealong with carb counts and nutrition info for what they're sharing. Recently they used PODS grant funding to bring a nutrition consultant into a Meetup to demonstrate and engage members in cooking new recipes, and members learned how to make delicious, healthy, lower-carb dishes.
After living with diabetes (type 1) for 28 years and counting, Diane knows just how important sisterhood and peer support are to living successfully with diabetes. "PODS is a place where we can turn when we need motivation, support, and laughter. PODS members are always there for each other. We can count on learning from each other very time we are together. With our group behind us, we always feel like we can handle whatever diabetes throws our way - and better! We call it 'Livabetes.'
Diane's vision for PODS and DiabetesSisters is a team of women who support each other in good times AND in challenging times. She chooses to focus on positive strengths that come from having a chronic disease, especially when many members have had it for a long time: strengths like long-time motivation and support, commitment to health, good attitudes about a chronic situation, etc. She identifies as a positive person and believes in surrounding herself with people who lift her up so that they can motivate each other.
At the final PODS Meetup and holiday festivities for 2017, Diane invited everyone to bring a small "something" for a gift exchange. The "something" could be a motivational quote, a recipe the PODS member loves to make (and eat!), a favorite diabetes hack or tip, or lesson learned, from the member's own experience...the possibilities were wide open, and all of the gifts exchanged were meaningful and fun.
As Diane reminds us: "There is nothing more powerful than peer to peer support. It fills a need that doctors, nurses, and even diabetes educators cannot meet (unless they have diabetes themselves). Each time I participate with other dSisters in any activity, I come away with a sense of pride. We are a group connected by a chronic disease but you would never know it by looking at us. These women have a drive and a connection to thriving and living well that I need and love! DiabetesSisters has become an integral part of my life."
Since 2010 the PODS (Part Of DiabetesSisters) Meetup program has offered monthly support to women living with any type of diabetes or prediabetes, providing a safe and nonjudgmental place to discuss the successes and challenges of living with diabetes. Led by women living with diabetes, the groups offer true peer support focused on women and diabetes. The PODS Meetup Program reaches more than 1,300 women annually, in person (in 18 states) and online (members meet via computer cameras from the comfort of their own home). Women age 18 and older, living with any type of diabetes or prediabetes, are invited to attend PODS Meetups. If you would like more information on local PODS Meetups near you, or starting a group in your community, please complete the PODS Meetup inquiry form –we look forward to hearing from you!
DiabetesSisters appreciates the Dexcom One Step Ahead Foundation and the Boehringer Ingelheim-Lilly Alliance as the 2017 sponsors of our signature PODS Meetup program.